DTSA’s Role in Approving Critical Technology Exports
On June 25, 1998, the Committee examined the process by which dual use items–items with both military and commercial uses–are licensed for export by the United States. Under controlling statutes and regulations, dual use licensing is supposed to involve a careful balancing of economic interests with national security interests. The analysis is performed by an interagency group comprised of Commerce, Defense, State, Energy, Arms Control, the Disarmament Agency, and, occasionally, Justice.
The Committee heard testimony from Dr. Peter Leitner, a Senior Trade Analyst with the Defense Department, who reviews dual use license applications. According to Dr. Leitner, who works at the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), changes made to the licensing process in the last six years have tilted it unacceptably towards economic interests and away from national security concerns. This tilt specifically affects Dr. Leitner’s organization, DTSA, because Defense is supposed to be the national security “watch dog” in the defense intelligence community. Dr. Leitner testified that DTSA does not perform its role properly and that the interagency group is “rigged” to downplay national security considerations. As proof of problems at DTSA, Dr. Leitner cited instances where his superiors have leaned on him to change his license recommendations from denials to approvals, and instances where colleagues reversed his recommendations (always from denials to approvals) by tampering with the official decisional records.
The Committee also heard from an administration witness, Franklin Miller, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction. Mr. Miller discounted Dr. Leitner’s criticisms, noting that DTSA and the interagency process work properly. However, he conceded that DTSA and the dual use process “…do not always balance the equities properly.”